All eyes on Budget 2021 debate today

The proposed RM322.5b expenditure for next year has already received lukewarm response from Opposition leaders

pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

COMMENTS and reactions might still be forthcoming on Budget 2021 which was presented by Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz last Friday, but all the decisions now lie in the hands of the MPs who will begin their debate today.

As it is, the proposed RM322.5 billion expenditure for next year — the biggest yet for the country — had already received a lukewarm response from Opposition leaders last week.

The Opposition particularly questioned the allocation of some RM85.5 million to JASA, a Special Affairs Department under the Communications and Multimedia Ministry, which was previously disbanded under the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

Universiti Sains Malaysia Social Science School lecturer Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said all the MPs will be able to evaluate the Budget 2021 today.

“Most likely, they will ask the Finance Ministry (MoF) to address their concerns and seek clarification throughout the debate period.

“More details will be provided and then, they can decide whether to recommend valueadd or make amendments,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said last Friday that the Opposition party will raise questions, particularly on the allocation for JASA, to give a clearer overall picture of the Budget 2021.

While the Opposition lauded the government’s attempt to take into account suggestions that were put forward by the party, he added that some estimates provided in the budget did not appear to be in line with the economic realities of the pandemic.

Despite the differences between parties, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Ethnic Studies deputy director Dr Kartini Aboo Talib Khalid said she is optimistic that the budget will eventually be approved by the majority of MPs, as the people, small and medium enterprises and business owners need this budget to sustain their lives.

“Budget 2021 will survive the vote from the MPs, and the Parliament does not need votes from 222 MPs, but from those who attended the budget presentation and are available to vote at present in the Parliament,” she added.

She said the government has three attempts to allow Budget 2021 to be endorsed by the Parliament.

Sivamurugan also said the budget will survive even with limited MPs.

“Also, it involves other ministries’ budgets, which all MPs will need to vote beside the MoF’s overall budget.

“Whether they will support the ministries’ budget is something to observe further,” he said.

Last week, former Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu and his deputy Liew Chin Tong in a joint statement said greater detail is needed on the government’s plan to allocate some RM2.3 billion for the maintenance of key assets under the Royal Armed Forces.

Both Mohamad and Liew also had reservations on the RM30 million budget for CyberSecurity Malaysia on grounds to strengthen the nation’s cyber security.